Angela Merkel on Thursday refused to back down from her “open-door” refugee policy in the wake of a week of violence in Germany, including three attacks by asylum seekers.
Mrs Merkel said Germany was “at war” with Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) after the jihadist group claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing and an axe attack on train passengers in Bavaria.
But she insisted Germany would not fail in its “historic task” of integrating the more than one million asylum seekers who arrived last year.
“The terrorists want us to lose sight of what is important to us,” Mrs Merkel said at a special press conference after a week of bloodshed in Bavaria.
“They want to undermine our sense of community, our openness and our willingness to help people in need. We firmly reject this.”
The German chancellor broke off her summer holiday to return to Berlin and address concerns after four violent attacks in Bavaria in the space of seven days.
A German-born teenager killed nine people in a shooting spree in Munich and a Syrian asylum seeker murdered a Polish woman at a kebab shop in an apparent crime of passion.
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But public concern has focused on two terror attacks by asylum seekers: an Afghan injured five people in an axe attack on a train, while a Syrian killed himself and injured 15 others in a suicide bombing.
“Taboos of civilisation are being broken,” Mrs Merkel said. “These acts happened in places where any of us could have been.
“The fact that two men who came to us as refugees are responsible mocked the country that took them in.
“It mocks the volunteers who have taken so much care of refugees. And it mocks the many other refugees who truly seek protection from war and violence with us, who want to live peacefully.”
Mrs Merkel has come under pressure over her refugee policy in the wake of the attacks, but she returned to her slogan of last summer’s migrant crisis, “We can do it”, in response to the new terror threat.
“I didn’t say eleven months ago that it would be easy,” she said. “I am still convinced today that ‘We can do it’. It is our historic duty and historic task in these times of globalisation. We have already achieved so much in the last 11 months.”
In truth, Mrs Merkel has already quietly reversed her “open-door” refugee policy, and her refusal to repudiate it was more symbolic than anything.
The EU migrant deal with Turkey, which she personally negotiated, and the closure of the Balkan Route have slowed the number of asylum seekers arriving in Germany to a trickle.
“An influx like last year will not happen again, but I cannot say that we will not take in any more refugees,” she said.
Instead, she unveiled a nine-point plan against terror, which included better monitoring of potential suspects and more intelligence co-operation with the US and European partners.
Crucially, it included a commitment to speed up deportations of rejected asylum seekers. Mohammed Daleel, the Ansbach suicide bomber, had been rejected but was able to stay in Germany despite twice being ordered to be deported.
It also included a commitment to push for Europe-wide gun controls, after police said Ali Sonboly, the Munich gunman, obtained an illegal gun over the internet from the Czech Republic or Slovakia.
Mrs Merkel was blunt in her response to Isil, which claimed responsibility for the train attack and the suicide bombing. Both attackers left video messages in which they pledged allegiance to the group.
“I believe we are in a fight, or for that matter at war with Isil,” Mrs Merkel said. “We are not in any way in a fight or war with Islam.”
Mrs Merkel’s comments are unlikely to be enough to silence her critics. Her Bavarian state government has called for an upper limit on the number of asylum seekers, and much stronger controls on those already in Germany.
“Islamist terrorism has unfortunately arrived in Bavaria,” Joachim Herrmann, the Bavarian interior minister said on Thursday.
“We are awaiting urgent action from the federal government and Europe – now is the time to act.”